Last week, the first shots of COVID-19 vaccine were administered on the Anschutz Medical Campus and it was with excitement and relief that our faculty and other colleagues were getting their initial dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Richard Zane, MD, chair of emergency medicine and chief innovation officer at UCHealth, told the Colorado Sun: “It is rocking. It is one of the most important events in the history of science and medicine, and people are excited they are participating.” The logistics of administering and documenting the vaccine, which became available earlier than most had anticipated, are formidable and I congratulate our hospital partners for their hard work in organizing these systems in a very short period of time. By this weekend, invitations had been sent out to all eligible for the first round of vaccinations, including our resident trainees.
While we offer care and counsel in clinics and we explore and make discoveries in our laboratories, the public also looks to us to lead by example. We are members of the extended community and we are role models for many who depend on us. As a result, we can allay anxiety some people might feel about the vaccines for this deadly virus. We can show we have confidence in the science that allowed these vaccines to be developed in record time.
We do this by sharing the news that we have taken the shots when they became available, so thanks to the many leaders on our campus who have stepped forward to share photos @CUMedicalSchool on Twitter. We also do this by reassuring the public about the process. As the first boxes of Pfizer’s vaccine arrived in Colorado, Mark Earnest, MD, PhD, head of the Division of General Medicine, gave perspective on the importance of immunizations and addressed questions about availability and effectiveness of the vaccine.
Four of our immunologists also shared their knowledge about the science of these vaccines. John Cambier, PhD, Distinguished Professor of immunology and microbiology, Rosemary Rochford, PhD, professor of immunology and microbiology, Ross Kedl, PhD, professor of immunology and microbiology, and Elena Hsieh, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics, Section of Allergy and Immunology, offered insight.
They bring their learning, but they also bring experience to the conversation. John, Rosemary, and Ross were participants in clinical trials of the COVID-19 vaccines this year. “There’s a street cred that comes with that,” Ross said. “They don’t just see me as a vaccine person telling everybody else that it’s fine. I think we can say that our personal experience with the clinical trials has only increased our confidence in the impact these vaccines will have on our society and creating long-lived immunity to the coronavirus.”
Explaining the process in media reports also gives confidence. Lisa Wynn, MD, senior instructor of obstetrics and gynecology, talked with Colorado Public Radio, about encouraging her husband, Charles, to participate in the clinical trial of the Moderna vaccine. In that same report, Thomas Campbell, MD, professor of medicine who led the trial on our campus, provided reassurance that scientific advances allowed the rapid development of these vaccines. He explained that the genetic sequence of the virus had been determined quickly and the information was shared widely so that companies could design their vaccines based on existing vaccine technology.
After a long, difficult year, we have vaccines that are offering hope during this holiday season. Hope is not a replacement for good judgment and care for others. Even as the rollout of vaccines begins, the massive logistical effort of widespread distribution and adoption of vaccines means that we must remain vigilant about mask wearing, physical distancing, hand washing, and all the other behaviors that we’ve adopted in 2020 to protect the health of ourselves and our neighbors.
Our faculty, staff, trainees, and colleagues have shown tremendous resilience during the pandemic. We are not to the finish line, so please remember to take the time you need to gather your strength for the months ahead. Cherish time with those you are closest to and recharge for the service you are called to provide. Show gratitude to those who are serving during this holiday season. Let the promise of better days ahead provide additional inspiration for your work, just as your commitment to care, discover, teach, and serve has been an inspiration to others.
Have a good week,
John J. Reilly, Jr., MD
Richard D. Krugman Endowed Chair
Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and
Dean, School of Medicine
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